An “unprecendented Political Attack On Foreign Soil"

by James Kirchick | May 15, 2008

That's what Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs called the following portion of President Bush's speech before the Knesset today:

Some seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: “Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided.” We have an obligation to call this what it is – the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.

There seem to be conflicting accounts of whether this remark was intended as a slight against Barack Obama specifically, as Obama partisans allege. The New York Times reports that "Mr. Bush did not mention Mr. Obama by name, and the White House said his remarks were not aimed at the senator," while CNN (more vaguely, and contrarily) reports that "The president did not name Obama or any other Democrat, but White House aides privately acknowledged the remarks were aimed at the presidential candidate and others in his party." Ultimately, however, does it really matter whom the remarks were "intended" to criticize? The urge to negotiate with the likes of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Khaled Meshal, Kim Jong Il, Bashar Assad, Hugo Chavez and other dictators is now a widely popular position in the Democratic Party (except, it seems, with Hillary Clinton), and Bush has every right to criticize those advocating it. Indeed, there are now so many people in the Democratic Party advocating such a policy (many of whom have been advocating such negotiations long before Barack Obama ever appeared on the national political scene) that it's a little myopic for Obama's people to think that this was some sort of thinly-veiled attack on their man alone. Someone should tell Obama that it's not always about him.

Which leads to the question of how Obama can justify (according to his own website) being "the only major candidate who supports tough, direct presidential diplomacy with Iran without preconditions" and be "willing to meet with the leaders of all nations, friend and foe" but not support talks with Hamas. The terrorist group, after all, was legitimately elected by the Palestinian people. That "Hamas is not a state. Hamas is a terrorist organization" should make little difference to Obama; Iran, North Korea and Syria are all designated by the State Department as state sponsors of terror. And for the record, FDR did not meet with Hitler, Truman did not meet with Stalin (at least not since the Cold War began) and JFK never met with Ho Chi Minh. Maybe history would have turned out for the better if they had, but I don't think that's the case, nor do I hear Obama saying as much.

--James Kirchick

Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//blog/the-plank/ldquounprecendented-political-attack-foreign-soilquot